Maria and Franklin Wiltrout Polygonal Barn, Corunna Indiana

Date added: April 09, 2023 Categories: Indiana Barn Round Barn
View from the northeast (1991)

The original owners of the barn were Maria and Franklin Wiltrout who likely purchased the barn as a kit from the Chicago House Wrecking Company, 35th and Iron Streets, Chicago. The Chicago House Wrecking Company placed an advertisement in The Indiana Farmer of January 6, 1912, page 24. The firm described Round Barn Design No. 206 as follows:

Our price for the material to build this barn, $995. Size, 60ft. in diameter and 16 ft. high to plate. Has 14 sides, each side 14 ft. A 16 ft. silo in the middle, same being 36 ft. high and will hold 160 tons of silage. Hay capacity, 65 tons. Will accommodate 100 head of cattle. The many and excellent features offered by this construction, the high grade materials furnished by us, and our extremely low price makes this barn a bargain worthy of thorough investigation.

Barn Design No. 206 matches the Wiltrout Barn closely, with the exception of the silo. Frank Reynolds designed No. 206, making him also the designer of the Wiltrout Barn. Farm journals of this period were widely circulated and well-trusted by farmers, and many of these periodicals approved of central-plan structures.

Additionally, the fine attention to detail on this barn found in the corner boards, door design and cupola lend themselves to the quality of a kit and not that of a local craftsman. Historically, the lower level would have stored farm animals and the upper level would have been devoted to the storage of hay and straw.

The Wiltrout family retained ownership of the property for many years with Franklin and Maria eventually passing the property to their daughter and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce. The Bruce family owned the farm until they sold it to Agnes and Harry Hutley, who in turn sold it to Robert Todd in 1981. William and Dorothy Alfred purchased the property from Mr. Todd in 1991. The Alfreds are now in the process of restoring the early-twentieth-century American Four Square farmhouse, which itself is probably a kit home. The Alfreds have reason to believe that the house was purchased as a kit from Montgomery Wards.

In Indiana, six of the 219 round and polygonal barns built were fourteen-sided. These barns, in addition to the Wiltrout (Alfred) barn, were built in Decatur County's Salt Creek Township (1913, razed), Franklin County's Ray Township (1915, razed), Huntington County's Polk Township (1907-08, extant), Montgomery County's Union Township (1912-13, extant) and Washington County's Pierce Township (1906, razed). Therefore, of the six built, only three survive today.

The Wiltrout (Alfred) barn is an unusual and unique example of a polygonal barn, being one of the three remaining fourteen-sided examples in Indiana. Interestingly, the six fourteen-sided barns were all built after 1905 when the patent was issued to Littleton, McNamee and Duncan, possibly as a way to skirt the patent rights of the designers. The barn has the essential physical features that it possessed at the time of its period of significance, from 1910 to the mid-1930s. The building has aged very gracefully and has not been significantly altered since its erection in 1910, thus standing as a landmark of the development of agriculture in Indiana.

Barn Description

The Maria and Franklin Wiltrout Polygonal Barn, located in rural DeKalb County, near Corunna, Indiana, is one of three fourteen-sided barns left in Indiana (six were built). The barn is surrounded by woods and fields on the north and east and cultivated fields to the west. The farmhouse, a 1911 Montgomery Ward design, is accompanied by a garage and shed. The house, garage, and shed are located south of the barn.

The Wiltrout Polygonal Barn is a fourteen-sided, two-story, wood frame structure dating from 1910. It is sixty feet in width, and has a sectional, two-pitch gambrel-like roof crowned by a fourteen-sided, louver-vented cupola. The foundation is poured concrete, and the interior floors are of bare earth.

The roof covering of the barn was originally wood shingle, but now the barn roof is sheathed in asphalt shingles, an alteration which minimally detracts from the barn's integrity. There is a slight overhang to the eaves, revealing the exposed rafters. Wall surfaces are covered in horizontal wood siding painted red with 1" X 4" white cornerboards enframing each wall section.

The main facade (east elevation) reveals the simple yet appealing geometry of the barn. Centered on this elevation are wide sliding doors made of diagonal planking mounted on overhead tracks. Each door is divided into six panels by 1" X 4" boards, with the top two sections of each door having a six-light window. The windows serve to admit more work light to the interior, much as transoms would to a house, while the door panel treatment is purely decorative.

Continuing around the barn counter-clockwise, the next face contains a six-light window with plain board surrounds, a treatment typical to the barn. Next is a human-sized door with adjacent window, then a window, followed by another window and a human-sized door. The seventh side contains a window unit as does the eighth. The ninth face, located on the west side of the barn contains another set of the decorative yet functional doors found on the east side, identical in size, configuration and location. The tenth face has another human-sized door with adjacent window, followed by a window unit on the eleventh, a window and human-sized door, a pair of windows on the thirteenth and finally, no lower level openings on the fourteenth. The only upper-level window is located on the fourteenth or northeast side of the barn, adding to the light admitted by the main doors and the cupola.

The interior of the barn is efficiently arranged for ease in handling and housing farm animals. A "central" drive cuts through the structure from east to west, with the drive's width beginning at the center line of the building and proceeding north, instead of the width being centered on the barn's midpoint. On the north side of the drive is a large open space that is partially defined by three support posts near the barn's center.

These posts eventually help to brace the roof. On the south side of the drive, the central support derrick is a prominent feature that is surrounded by a feed alley, defined by more support posts. The feed alley posts correspond to the ones on the opposite side and in concert with the derrick provide the stabilizing factor for the roof. Arranged radially around the feed alley are, moving from west to east, a large box stall, eight pens with manure troughs near the outer walls and a grain bin. Further, the pens and box stalls have feed troughs located toward the center of the barn so that they can be filled from the feed alley. A permanent staircase is located inside the south door and ascends to the upper level. Finally, the balloon frame construction of the walls is capped by the inwardly radiating floor joists of the upper level that are intermediately braced by the inner posts and the central derrick.

The upper level, reached by the staircase, is divided into a northern and a southern hay mow, separated by the open space to the central drive. The north hay mow is open and defined at the edge by the support posts that rise from the lower level and terminate at the roof's laminated beam. The south hay mow, larger than the one on the north, also has the ring of posts found on the lower level in addition to the central derrick support system, with the derrick bracing the upper roof section and cupola. Ingeniously, the roof sections, framed by inwardly radiating stick lumber, are braced by a series of laminated beams (at the juncture of the two roof pitches), posts and the derrick.

Maria and Franklin Wiltrout Polygonal Barn, Corunna Indiana View from the northeast (1991)
View from the northeast (1991)

Maria and Franklin Wiltrout Polygonal Barn, Corunna Indiana View from the north (1991)
View from the north (1991)

Maria and Franklin Wiltrout Polygonal Barn, Corunna Indiana View from the northwest (1991)
View from the northwest (1991)

Maria and Franklin Wiltrout Polygonal Barn, Corunna Indiana View from the south (1991)
View from the south (1991)

Maria and Franklin Wiltrout Polygonal Barn, Corunna Indiana View from the east (1989)
View from the east (1989)

Maria and Franklin Wiltrout Polygonal Barn, Corunna Indiana View from the north (1989)
View from the north (1989)